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Eye in the Sky (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 102 minutes.

OK for children.

In 1948 Clark Gable made one of his best movies, Command Decision. Directed by Sam Wood, it pictured Clark as Brig. Gen. K. C. “Casey” Dennis, the commanding officer of a USAF bomber squadron in England and the tough decision he had to make about sending his squadron deep into Germany to bomb ball-bearing factories for German jet planes at the end of World War II in light of increasing high casualties. It was made even harder by the presence of a visiting Congressman and a journalist looking over his shoulder. It was a brilliant, tense examination of a soldier having to make a very tough decision that would necessarily involve sending lots of American fliers to their deaths.

This seems to me to be basically a remake of that film, only it’s set in various locations epitomizing how local air wars are conducted today. You aren’t going to see many better movies than this one, this year or any year. Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) plays Clark’s role. She has to make a decision as to whether or not to send a bomb from a drone down on a terrorist leader they have been trying to get and some of his bad guys who are planning a suicide bombing in the market square, but there is collateral damage that has to be considered.

Mirren is located in a computer office. At another location is Lt. Gen. Frank Benson (Alan Rickman in one of his last roles, if not his last), who is sitting in front of a computer communicating with Col. Powell but also in the room with him are lots of politicians. They debate the legalities and moralities. At another location outside of Las Vegas is drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) who doesn’t want to pull the trigger because of possible collateral damage to a young girl who has inadvertently wandered into the kill zone and set up a stand to sell bread.

But it’s very, very complicated. The Rules of Engagement have to be followed so there are lots of people covering their behinds by pushing the decision to the person above them.

The tension crackles as time is a-wastin’ while everyone passes the buck. This is exceptionally realistic with a thought-provoking non-Hollywood ending.